Feb 22

Americas Society

March 4th 8PM, at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, presented by the Americas Society, Ekmeles performs works of the Americas.

Ekmeles performs works by composers of the Americas focused on language and communication. Marc Sabat’s Seeds of Skies Alibis is the most ambitious and largest-scale microtonal work that Ekmeles has yet commissioned, stretching 40+ minutes of complex pitch ratios to describe the origin of the world through Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Paired with this will be, Hilda Paredes’s Fragmentos de Altazor, setting Vicente Huidobro’s metaphysical text; portions of Mauricio Kagel’s Der Turm zu Babel, telling the biblical story of the Tower of Babel in many different languages; and 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Music winner Tania León’s De-Orishas, sparkling in its evocation of a variety of musical styles.

  • Marc Sabat – Seeds of Skies, Alibis (2018)
  • Tania León – De-Orishas (1988)
  • Mauricio Kagel – Der Turm zu Babel (2002)
  • Hilda Paredes – Fragmentos de Altazor (2010)

Personnel for concert

Ekmeles’s 2021-2022 season is made possible with funds from the Amphion Foundation, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Alice M. Ditson Fund, The Fritz Reiner Center for Contemporary Music, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Feb 18

Whirled English

As part of our 2017-2018 season we’re continuing to give each of our core singers a turn at the helm of the blog. The below post below comes from our mezzo soprano, Elisa Sutherland.

Marc Sabat’s new piece for Ekmeles, Seeds of Skies, Alibis, is written in “whirled English.” What this means exactly will be explored in a few paragraphs, but it indicates at the very least that language has been toyed or experimented with – only one of the ways in which Sabat subverts our assumptions about music and text in this carefully crafted piece.

Sabat refers to the work as a cantata, a form that indicates some sort of narrative or scene that unfolds through alternating expository recitations and emotional arias. Seeds of Skies is indeed made up of a variety of subsections (some you won’t find in the quintessential cantatas of Monteverdi and Bach): “Recitativo,” “Chorale,” but also “Invocation,” “Chants,” and, puzzlingly, “Short Cuts Long Lines.” And the text plays an important role in determining the form, albeit in an original way: where once it might have indicated a switch from recit to aria or fugue to chorale, Sabat’s text exerts its force on a measure-by-measure basis, drawing out sibilants and cutting short excited plosives in mini-dramas of their own.

So what is “whirled English?” The text for the piece is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, but then brought through a second metamorphosis by Sabat and the poet Uljana Wolf. While us singers never pronounce the Latin directly, the words we do speak take their sound and shape, not meaning, from Ovid’s lines. “In nova fert animus mutatas,” becomes: “In no war fared animals mutate us;” “dicere forma” is transformed humorously (and with some truth) into, “dick arrows form us.” But Sabat and Wolf are not satisfied with one acoustic permutation. The “fert” in the first line has a new life reflected in multiple languages across the first movement of the piece; it appears as “fared” and “fährt” and “faire,” “fate” and “feared” and so on and so on.

Each line of Ovid’s is given this same treatment. No thought is spared for accurate translation, only humor and enthusiasm for the sound of language as we speak and sing it. It’s as if two thousand years of Latin derivation is happen right before us, bursting into being. The text is resplendent with cognates and faux amis across a multitude of languages and dialects – as if the piece were an entire conversation of that moment of: “Oh! I thought you said…”

I always love pieces that make me think about some aspect of music in a new way, whether it is timbre, harmony, form, or something more specific, like the beauty of a certain interval or how soprano saxophones really can sound nice. Sabat and Wolf achieve what the greatest poets are always striving for: to make us experience language in a new way. For their “translation” does have meaning and truth, for us to discover and figure out for ourselves:

In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas
Of bodies chang’d to various forms, I sing:
In no war fared animals mutate us, dick arrows form us

Jan 18

Microtonal Premieres

This program features U.S. and world premieres by composers experimenting with the infinite tuning flexibility of the human voice. A world premiere commission by Marc Sabat is paired with U.S. premieres by Catherine Lamb and Rebecca Saunders, and an Ekmeles favorite by Erin Gee.

  • Marc Sabat – Seeds of Skies, Alibis (2017)
  • Rebecca Saunders – Soliloquy (2007)
  • Catherine Lamb – pulse/shade (2014)
  • Erin Gee – Three Scenes from SLEEP (2008)

Ekmeles personnel for concert

Ekmeles in Manhattan, Spring 2018 is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. LMCC.net

Dec 16

Music of the North on Music Mondays with JACK Quartet

Ekmeles performs a trio and duo by Karin Rehnqvist and Kaija Saariaho, as well as solo performances of songs with piano accompaniment by Anna Thorvaldsdottir and Jean Sibelius, all interspersed with performances by JACK Quartet of music by John Luther Adams and Marc Sabat, under the theme Music of the North.

Ekmeles repertoire for concert

  • Karin Rehnqvist – Davids Nimm (1983)
  • Kaija Saariaho – From the Grammar of Dreams (1988)
  • Jean Sibelius – Selected songs
  • Anna Thorvaldsdottir – Hvolf (2009)

Ekmeles personnel for concert